The connection between the military and watches is a well-documented one (see our primer here), but one doesn’t need to join the armed forces to get a timepiece touting a military look. A number of brands – from Hamilton to Bremont – incorporate military specs and designs in their timepieces, creating watches that are both rugged and stylish. But the watch world isn’t the only area where the military has influenced design. As far back as recent memory goes, fashion has been taking style cues from the armed forces, and menswear in particular has enjoyed these influences throughout the years.
One doesn’t have to follow fashion trends to take advantage of the military aesthetic. From desert boots and khakis to peacoats and bomber jackets, clothes once worn on the battlefield are now staples for most men. In the last couple of years, menswear has seen even greater military influence, and perhaps the most ubiquitous example of that influence is the proliferation of camouflage as a design element.
Used by the French military as early as 1915, the camouflage pattern was originally devised as way to help soldiers blend into their surroundings. Today, it is used as a way to stand out (though the trend has reached a certain saturation point with things like this and this in existence). In small doses, however, camouflage can be both unassuming and exciting, a way to add a little something extra to your daily outfit. If you wear a grey suit to work everyday, opt for a coat like this NANAMICA GORE-TEX Cruiser with camouflage lining. Or you can take a subtler approach and layer with a light down jacket like this piece from Uniqlo. My personal preference is to limit loud patterns to unobtrusive items, so things like sneakers, socks, backpacks, and watchstraps are the way to go.
Speaking of watchstraps, a camouflage strap can be a great pairing for more casual timepieces, especially military-inspired tool watches. The majority of my watch collection is made up of chronographs and fliegers, and I find that a camouflage nato is the perfect accompaniment for most of my pieces during the hot summer days in terms of both aesthetics and comfort. I especially love the look of camo against a PVD/DLC case, and I often outfit my Damasko DA36 black with a camo nato strap. For those of you interested in a camouflage strap, but would rather avoid nylon, there are unfortunately a limited number of options out there.
Another option that recently caught my eye was the Logan Zane/Crown&Buckle leather nato strap. Logan Zane is a New York-based brand known for its line of luxury men’s accessories. From briefcases to watch rolls, Logan Zane uses high quality Italian leather in their American-made wares. Crown&Buckle, as most of our readers already know, is a terrific source for affordable straps that look great without breaking the bank. Their collaboration has resulted in a camouflage leather nato that combines the best of both brands, bringing together affordability and luxury in a piece that should appeal to a wide market. After getting my hands on a sample of the green camouflage strap and wearing it for a few weeks, I can finally give my two cents.
First things first, based on the strap design, ring configuration, and thickness of the leather, this is technically not a nato strap, but a zulu strap. For the sake of this review, I’ll just refer to it as “the strap.” Semantics aside, this is a well-made piece. The first thing I noticed was the quality of the leather. It is both soft and supple, and requires no break in. Some leather natos leave the underside raw, which can detract from the overall look of the strap. That is not the case here, with the pattern printed on both sides. The strap is also 11.5-inches long, making it an ideal length as it is not too long for my 6.75-inch wrist (even when I choose not to tuck the excess length into the keepers), and it can also easily accommodate a wrist that’s significantly larger.
The pattern itself is also unique, and offers a different take on camouflage. The scale of the pattern is larger than usual, so it creates a look that is subtler than most other takes on the pattern. Observing from afar, one might mistake the strap for being mono-colored rather than patterned. The coloration is also relatively dark, with olive green, brown and black playing dominant roles, resulting in a subdued strap that will look at home with a number of different watches. The straps come with either stainless steel or black hardware. I opted for the option with black hardware because I was excited to match the strap with my Damasko DA36 black, and it did not disappoint.
My only real issue with the strap is that it is quite thick, therefore limiting its use to watches with longer lugs. While I normally love thicker two-piece straps, I prefer thinner zulu/nato straps. One of the best things about nato straps is how easy they are to switch out. A thicker nato strap loses that advantage, because you either have to struggle to get it through the often-narrow space between the spring bars and the case, or you have to attach the strap with the spring bars removed. The manufacturer does recommend the latter method, and that is how I was finally able to get the strap on my watches (I found that watches with drilled lugs were easier to manage than those without). Nevertheless, it is not an ideal way for switching out straps and I would like to see future offerings with a slightly slimmer profile.
The two brands have collaborated on another “nato” featuring tan camouflage leather, and from the looks of it this second run is proving to be a hit as well. Though it seems to be just as thick, the coloration is definitely not something you’ll see everyday. If the thickness isn’t a deal breaker, give it a try. It might be just what you need to give your outfit a little pop this fall.
by Ilya Ryvin
Camo NATO supplied by Crown&Buckle